Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Time to Change Those Tags? or Economists Catching Up, Round Two

Brad DeLong, not generally a Leading Indicator in such matters, follows Mark Thoma yesterday in looking into the abyss and seeing the outline of a train around the “light”:

Henceforth, I will call the current unpleasantness not “The Great Recession,” but rather “The Little Depression.”

This still strikes me as optimism, but I’m stil on what do you call 1873-1896 (much more similar to the current situation) when “The Great Depression” only lasted about 17 years?

(Aside: Round One of Economists Catching Up was here.)

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"Top X" economics blogs

by Mike Kimel

I recently got an e-mail from a fellow blogger asking me to link a list that blogger made of “top X” economics blogs. (And no, I will not link to the list or identify that blogger.) My response:

Hi. Umm…. I looked over your list, and while there are some very good blogs on it, there are also some that frankly, from what I can tell, specialize in peddling misinformation. By that I do not mean blogs that have a perspective with which I disagree. I tend not to agree, for example, with the folks at Marginal Revolution on many things, but they produce an excellent blog with well thought out posts and which generally get the facts right. I myself have listed them as a daily read at Angry Bear and would recommend them to anyone.

On the other hand, your list contains four blogs that from what I can tell are more likely to state or link to “facts” that are not true. There are also several blogs I do not recognize on the list so it is possible that there are more misinformation peddlers than that on the list. I am very sorry, but I cannot recommend your list to anybody.

Apologies.

Mike

How should one deal with those that peddle misinformation? Your thoughts?

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Economics Cannot Find Racism; Just Move Along

One of my favorite paper presentations ever was by Daniel Parent, who is a good enough reason in himself for pending Labor Economists to apply to HEC. He was trying to present data on income inequalities in the Financial Services industry and was forced to note—all right, I asked—that they didn’t have the data to determine if there was a racial difference in earnings because there wasn’t enough data on high-earning Blacks in the sample to be “statistically significant.” Since the sample used IRS data, among other sources, the answer was clear.

Now (via Tyler Cowen), I see that “not statistically significant” is not just for Financial Services Executives; the WSJ’s markets blog notes:

On average, Republican professors gave black students grades that were .2 of a grade point lower than their Democratic colleagues, or about two-thirds of the distance between a B and a B-minus.

(Among eleven black professors in the sample, there were no Republicans, and the Democrats appeared to grade white and black students as their white-Democratic peers did. But there were too few black professors to make that finding statistically significant.)

Again, the finding may not be statistically significant, but the sample, er, complection is.

Their data set is available here.

UPDATE: Thoreau riffs on the subject and finds a link to the paper.

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Thought-Experiment of the Day

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of the birth-death adjustment to the employment serieses: not from a necessary belief that they’re biased, but rather because they give the lie to the illusion of accurate monthly data.

But imagine for the moment that there had been no adjustment before the January data release.  The headline number for January might well have been north of 400,000, making the past three months even more impressive (from a headline perspective only, but still…) in terms of job creation.

Would that change anyone’s opinion of the timing and/or need for tightening?  (See also my post earlier today with the graphic borrowed from The Big Picture marking a growth comparison with 2003-2004.)

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Kauffman Economics Bloggers Forum Update and a Few Links of Noe

I’m in Kansas City, where the Royals have started the season as one would expect of the current iteration of the team.

Fortunately, I’m not here for the baseball, but rather for the Kauffman Economics Bloggers Forum. There will be presentations tomorrow (agenda here; homepage for live streaming here) in three session. The morning features Tyler Cowen, Ben Wildavsky, Megan McArdle, Bryan Caplan, and Bob Cringely; early afternoon are Lynne Kiesling, Ryan Avent, Arnold Kling, and Felix Salmon; and it closes out with Dean Baker, Steve Waldman, and Virginia Postrel.

All times on the website are Central.

Discoveries so far:

  1. Steve Waldman and Matt Yglesias have the same hairstyle
  2. Felix Salmon agrees with me about individual investors and 401(k)s—indeed, I should say I agree with him, since he’s more vehement about the issue. (He gave me permission to quote him, but this is a family blog.)
  3. For the second year in a row, the “best” barbecue place in Kansas City provided inferior product; Tyler Cowen blames the voters for its loss.
  4. There was much discussion of cricket without mention of Lagaan (which, as I noted last year at this blog, explained to me why the British Empire failed, rather in the same way that Dick is the only movie to make sense of the White House in the early and mid-1970s).

Tune in tomorrow, after the positive but not thrilling Non-Farm Payoll release. Meanwhile:

  1. Buce continues the discussion started by Tim Geithner’s Chief Internet Apologist‘s discussion of Neil Barofsky’s analysis of TARP.
  2. As another two-fer, I’m trying to figure out how Don Marron’s discussion of a letter he signed dovetails with Bruce Bartlett’s analysis of a newly-proposed Constitutional Amendment. Maybe our readers can help?

On a personal note, the only “Asian” food service available at O’Hare Airport was nearly a full kilometer round-trip away from my gate, and I decided that my legs were tired enough. But on the flight from Chicago to Kansas City, I finished reading Sarah Manguso’s marvelous (and short) The Two Kinds [sic] of Decay and thought about feeling ashamed for not taking the walk. Fortunately, the feeling passed, but my regard for and recommendation of the book hasn’t.

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Is Economics a science-three comments

by Mike Kimel

Is Economics a Science – Three Comments

In the last few days I came across three very different posts, each of which covers (to some extent) the question of whether economics is a science. In order of how focused on the posts are on that particular question….

Barry Ritholtz is on fire with this post on Alan Greenspan.

Mike the Mad Biologist on when economists misunderstand biology. (My answer to whether economics is a science appears in comments to Mike’s post.)

Brad DeLong provides an insider’s view of the problem.

Update: Discussion hits a chord with bloggers and readers. Here are other links to the discussion.

Noah Opinion blog

Barry Eichengreen

Peter Dorman at Econospeak

Links section at Naked Capitalism in comments.

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A Tense Problem

Mark Thoma begins with a hilarious typo, but eventually gets to the Quote of the Decade (if not century) from Alan Blinder:

If we economists stubbornly insist on chanting ‘free trade is good for you’ to people who know that it is not, we will quickly become irrelevant to the public debate.

As Rusty can (and will, at length) tell you, the thing that is wrong with that sentence is the tense. We have had free trade agreements for decades, China has had MFN status since the 1990s, and permanently since 2000. The pieces of the former Soviet Union, including the current oligarchy that is called Russia, have had that status since 1992. NAFTA, including its abhorrent Chapter 11, has been in force since 1994.

There has been a generation that has lived under “free trade.” While an economist might successfully argue that the overall social benefit has been great—millions of Chinese parents become estranged from their children to make a better life, as it were—the retraining, redevelopment and all of the other assumptions economists make about ameliorating the transition to a new economy have been eschewed.

The example of Boeing (h/t Felix) bodes large: the valuable work was outsourced, the menial work was kept (or spun off into bankruptcy), and the new “higher-value” jobs and opportunities that were expected by idiots economists never materialized, replaced instead by growing income inequality and the retraining money lined the pockets of the CEOs who produced (to borrow a phrase used by the brilliant McGarrysGhost on Twitter) “failure masquerading as vision.”

And any microeconomist worth his paycheck can tell you that increasing inequality leads to suboptimal production.

Blinder is wrong in only one thing: the tense he uses indicates that the results are still, somehow, in doubt. The ability of Chinese peasants to eat a bit more is nice, but the externalities—poisoned toothpaste, dog food,* defective tires—make it rather impossible to claim that the “advantages of free trade” have trickled down in any way except as a ureotelic (mp3 link).**

The first thing we were told by our veterinarian about the new puppy is that we need to make certain that any food she eats was made in either Canada or the United States. Fortunately, pet food—unlike its human equivalent—is required to be labeled with origin information.

**You better believe I’m doing The Snoopy Dance on having discovered this site, which saves me from trying to find a way to transfer my old cassette to a usable format. But that’s fodder for Skippy, not here.

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One Less Blog to Answer: No More "Girl Economist"

Between deadlines and strange website blockages, I missed this yesterday. Via Steve Randy Waldman (whose “Interfludity” is blocked) and Mark Thoma (whose isn’t) comes Really Bad News:

To all Maxine Udall Girl Economist Readers: It is with great sadness that we bring you the news that Dr. Alison Snow Jones, aka Maxine Udall, Girl Economist, passed away suddenly on Monday, January 17, 2011. “What Price Microfinance” was her last post.

She was in her early- to mid-50s, estimating by her c.v..

Go read what you missed, and what we will all miss going forward. UPDATE: For instance, this post, which is both (1) the only valuable thing ever to be sourced to treating a David Brooks column as if it were rational and (2) a much more generous reflection on economics that the data currently appears to warrant (until you realise the math/model that will be required to reach the goal).

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